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College degree proves elusive for Michigan residents

More than a million Michigan residents have “some college, no degree.” That means 13.6% of the state’s adult population started but never finished college. Nearly 14% of adult Michiganders lacked a plan, financing, support or the desire to finish a college degree. Ample evidence indicates that possessing a college degree enables economic mobility, financial stability and employment opportunities. Despite that, 13.6% of Michigan’s adult learners stopped trying.

Not everyone who starts college will finish, but the challenges that make people quit school are often solvable. Money is a big concern. So, anything that reduces the cost of attendance is welcome among people who want to earn a college degree.

New skills that people can use in their current positions are also a high priority among degree seekers. Other helpful (read: highly desirable) factors include flexible class scheduling, solid academic advising, and online classes.

Other services that would help people return to the classroom include access to food, help finding a job after graduation, transportation help, and networking. These services are not hard for a highly functional, well-funded community college.

Washtenaw Community College is certainly well-funded. However, the current administration either lacks the vision to support students, or it operates a “shadow mission” with goals that differ from WCC’s stated mission.

WCC needs more college degree programs

All this crap in the Mission and Vision statement sounds good, but is killing the on-campus childcare center really supporting student parents need high-quality, low-cost, readily available childcare? Is diverting millions of dollars from the institution’s general fund to pay off a building that no one asked for “embracing teaching and learning as our central purpose?” Can one really say that building a hotel and conference center on campus will provide a genuine benefit to the students? Is plopping a Starbucks in the parking lot really the best way to increase the graduation rate?

The administration claims that it emphasizes premier technical and career educational programs, but occupational education has taken a back seat at WCC for decades. WCC actually managed to lose 6% of its enrollment when the State of Michigan is paying for more than 20,000 people to go to college free. Restaurants in Washtenaw County need help. The WCC administration responded by closing the Culinary Arts programs. This administration sanctioned a tuition and fee schedule that forces Washtenaw County residents to subsidize students who may not even live in Michigan! And WCC now awards so few college degree credentials that the Department of Education no longer classifies WCC as a two-year institution.

The current Board of Trustees has approved the hiring of more than a dozen Vice Presidents. Seriously, if the first thirteen Vice Presidents haven’t managed to tackle the mission, will a fourteenth really improve things at WCC?

Washtenaw County deserves a better return on investment

It’s time to admit that the current administration will not meet the needs of adult learners in Washtenaw County. Especially not with a profound lack of new educational programs that lead to living-wage jobs, a master plan that contains no academic support components, the closing of the Children’s Center, and the institution of a $5-per-credit-hour “technology infrastructure fee” when the cost of technology has never been lower.

Washtenaw County needs community college leadership that is invested in Washtenaw County. We don’t currently have that.

Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar , via Flickr